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The Morning After: Preseason Week 2

Posted Aug 22, 2010

A pass bouncing off of Lance Ball's hands caused Kyle Orton's first interception of the preseason. But Ball didn't stop working, and the running back redeemed himself with a leaping touchdown for Denver's first points of the game.

DENVER -- As Lance Ball was flying through the air Saturday night against the Detroit Lions, he saw the goal line pass below him.

All he could think was, "Good, I scored."

Typically an acrobatic finish to a 15-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown would be cause for more jubilation. But what Ball felt was just as much relief as excitement.

"I had to redeem myself," Ball said. "I made a good catch and I was like, 'Man, I've got to make a play.' So I made a play and the outcome was in the end zone."

Ball's redemption came after breaking the golden rule for all pass-catchers -- if a ball hits you in the hands, you have to catch it.

With the Broncos driving deep into Lions territory midway through the first quarter, Kyle Orton dropped back at the 26-yard line and fired a pass to Ball.

The running back stuck his hands up to haul it in, but the ball deflected into the air before it was snatched by former Bronco Dre' Bly for an interception -- Orton's only pick of the preseason.

When he walked back to the sideline, Ball's teammates were there to remind the back that there was plenty of football left.

"I told him to just let it go -- keep playing," Jabar Gaffney said. "And he bounced back like he should."

So when he had his chance, Ball made sure to capitalize, taking an Orton pass up and over a defender and into the end zone for the team's first score of the day.

The team's second score of the day was Marquez Branson's first in the NFL.

The tight end, who spent the 2009 season on the practice sqauad, found himself in quite a conundrum after hauling in a pass from Orton just before halftime.

With time running down in the first half, Orton bought time in the pocket and found the tight end at about the 5-yard line with 5 seconds remaining.

Branson turned and sprinted toward the end zone as a defender quickly closed. His mind began to race -- should he reach for the goal line? What if he fumbled?

"(Head) Coach (Josh) McDaniels keeps telling us, 'Don't stretch the ball over the goal line -- it's a ball security issue,'" Branson said. "I was thinking that because there was so little time I wanted to make sure I got across."

So he came up with a compromise.

"I just tucked (the ball) back in and just threw my body in there," he said with a smile. "It worked out alright."


For the first-unit defense, Saturday night's performance was less-than-acceptable.

"They had four scoring drives -- that says it all," Mario Haggan said. "We've just got to be more firm."

The group played the entire first half, a half in which Detroit gained 189 net yards of offense and scored 16 points. In the process, the Lions jumped out to an early 13-0 lead.

"They got those points in the beginning and it seems like our backs were against the wall the whole time," said Justin Bannan, who shared a sack with Robert Ayers in the second quarter. "We need to work on coming out of the gate and playing some ball right off the bat."

Still, the defense's ability to hold the Lions to field goals on three of their four scoring drives allowed the Broncos to jump right back in the game with two second-quarter touchdown drives.

Detroit went 0-for-3 in the red zone in the first half, as the Lions settled for field goals on all three opportunities.

"If you want to just talk about the red zone, I think we did a tremendous job," Haggan said. "But we didn't do what we needed to do to keep them from getting that far."

Luckily, Bannan said, the preseason is for correcting mistakes, and that's exactly what the team will do -- starting today.

"There are obviously some positives we can take from this, I just think we didn't start fast tonight and they did," he said. "We're going to take a lot from this, watch the film (today), correct the mistakes we need to correct and come out and fix it."


Just one day after officially joining the Broncos, Worrell Williams ran through the tunnel at INVESCO Field at Mile High to take part in his first NFL game.

"I was like, 'OK, this is the show -- fireworks banging off and everything," Williams recalled. "People are screaming your name, and you didn't know anybody knew you were here. It was definitely exciting. I'm still pinching myself that by the grace of God I'm here."

But Williams wasn't going in blind. He spent time with coaches prior to the game, going over 12 to 15 plays that were similar to ones he ran in college with the Golden Bears of Cal.

"I had guys out there helping me as well and making sure I was in the right position," he said. "If I didn't know, just running as hard as I can and hitting someone as hard as I can."

One of the players helping him Saturday night was Syd'Quan Thompson, a high school and college teammate of Williams.

But Williams has another ace in the hole -- his older brother is D.J. Williams. And the elder linebacker has been making sure the newcomer is ready to contribute.

"I go home and stay with him instead of staying at the hotel," Worrell said. "Since I've been here two days he's been on me about the plays and telling me what to do. He has it down pat, and he's been a huge help to me thus far."

So how did the game go? Williams -- who spent last football season in the UFL with the California Redwoods -- saw extensive playing time in the second half, finishing with one tackle in his first NFL contest.

"It was wild," he said. "It was all that I thought it would be -- fast and physical, but it was fun. I thought I did well being here two days, getting acclimated and adjusted to the air out here -- I know it's pretty thin. I've got a lot of work to do but I think I'm going to do well."